Friday, December 25, 2009

To all my readers. . .

Yes, I know, I had this same painting in last year's Christmas post! It's by far my favourite picture of the nativity. . . 

. . .Have a merry Christmas, and a blessed holiday season!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas tag

My sister, Grace, tagged me!

What do you like about Christmas?

I like Christmas because it reminds us (or should remind us) to pause for a while and reflect on the amazing fact that God's son came to earth to bring us salvation - to rescue us, and bring us back into a real relationship with God! I also like Christmas because it is a time for giving, caring, and spending time with family.

What do you really want for Christmas?

I don't know! Maybe a good book or two. Other than that, I'm not sure. . .

How do you like to celebrate Christmas?

With my family!

What do you like to eat on Christmas?

Lots of Christmas sweet treats! Yes, I do have bit of a sweet tooth. . .

What colors do you wear on Christmas?

I have no idea! Something comfortable, and maybe also colourful.

Do you put Christmas lights on your house?


Do you have a Christmas tree?


Do you like Santa?


Do you like to make Christmas decorations?


Do you like to have Christmas at home with your family or do you like to spend the it with your Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and other family?

I don't mind. It's fun to have a big family get-together sometimes, but it can also be nice to have a quiet Christmas at home with only your immediate family.


We're running out of time before Christmas, so I won't officially tag anyone, but if you would like to join in the fun, please go right ahead!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts on re-reading Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights. Few books have the power to polarise their readers to such an extent as Wuthering Heights. It's like Keira Knightley. . . or Vegemite. You either hate it, or love it. (I happen to like both of the latter, BTW).

I would have been about 12 or 13 when I read Wuthering Heights for the first time. I had never seen any of the film adaptations, and had no familiarity with the story. I was in for a shock! A complex, unpleasant story, full of characters who I greatly disliked and could not understand - those were some of my earlier impressions of Wuthering Heights.

Since that first exposure to Wuthering Heights, I have seen several of the film versions (which are nearly all pretty bad. . . WH, it would seem, is almost unfilmable). And I've read various articles, essays, and blog posts about Wuthering Heights over the years. In short, as much as I disliked WH the first time I read it, I found myself wanting to read it once more. After reading so much about other people's opinions of WH, and watching various film interpretations, I wanted to read it again - to refresh my memory of it, and to try to decipher my own feelings on the book, several years after reading it for the first time.

I finished reading it yesterday. Some of my (somewhat random) thoughts:

Wuthering Heights has got to be one of the most frustrating books in the English language! For over a century and a half, readers and critics alike have tried desperately to pin it down - to dissect it - decipher it's meaning - and have all failed. Wuthering Heights simply refuses to be pinned down or boxed in. You can try to instill some definite moral or allegory - it doesn't work! Everybody wants to 'figure it out', but no one really can. Every reader, every critic seems to interpret the story in a different way.

Heathcliff: possibly my least favourite character in English literature. A very, very messed up human being! I frankly cannot understand the appeal he holds for some women. 'Bad boy' appeal? I don't think so. He's a fiend! He's a villain! There is absolutely nothing to like about him. It is possible to feel some measure of sympathy for him early in the book, when he is cruelly abused by Hindley, but beyond that. . .

I find the hardest, most painful part of the book to read is Heathcliff's return to the Grange after his several year's absence. There is something so ominous in those pages. You know that something is going to explode - that something is going to go terribly, terribly wrong - and it does. On the other hand, there is such an incredible sense of relief upon Heathcliff's death. As he gradually fades away - and as Catherine and Hareton's romance develops - the dark, unsettling atmosphere that has haunted the Heights for years finally lifts.

We can't ever know for certain what inspired Emily Bronte to write her only novel, but my guess is, rather than wanting to write it, she was compelled to write it. The characters lived in her mind, and she had to write their story. She never set out with the intention of making up such a character as Heathcliff. He just - happened. That's how I've always imagined it to have been, anyway. . .

One thing that struck me as I was re-reading WH was how shockingly modern the language seemed to be! Or perhaps 'timeless' would be a better word than 'modern'. Emily Bronte's prose is much easier for the modern reader to follow than, say, Dickens' or even Charlotte Bronte's. The language is simple, but very powerful in its simplicity. It doesn't read like a typical Victorian novel. And of course, it isn't a typical Victorian novel at all. . .

Hmmm. . . still trying to analyze my thoughts on Wuthering Heights. I think I have something of a love-hate affair with Emily Bronte's classic. It's violent, it's depressing, full of unlikeable characters. . . and yet, I suspect that, in another couple of years, I'll be pulling it down from the shelf and reading it yet again! So what is the appeal of Wuthering Heights for me? I'm not exactly sure! I don't like either of the protagonists - Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. I don't like their love story. The 'love' they have for each other is destructive and unhealthy. An excellent example of humanity pushed to its cruelest, darkest limits, and of passion twisted and perverted until it is utterly unlike what God intended it to be.

And yet - there are glimpses of light towards the very end. Catherine and Hareton's beautiful, innocent romance contrasts all the more strongly with Cathy and Heathcliff's destructive obsession with each other. I love the last few chapters of the book - as Heathcliff fades and dies, and Catherine and Hareton begin to fall in love. To me - it's like the curse has been crushed. The horrible, destructive cycle has finally been broken. Catherine and Hareton can get married, move to Thrushcross Grange, have a bunch of children. . . begin their lives again. As for Wuthering Heights itself - do you think it should be left alone? Left to itself, along with all its memories and ghosts? It seems the most fitting fate to me. . .

So, the final few chapters - and the promise of life and new beginnings after all the death and destruction - help to make it all worthwhile for me.

Now - shall I give a brief rundown of the various movie adaptations, for those of you who are interested? Please remember I don't necessarily recommend any of the following films. Wuthering Heights, by its very nature, is violent and often depressing, so of course any movie version that follows the book is also going to be. . . violent and depressing. The only major adaptation I haven't seen is the 1939 version, with Laurence Olivier. By all accounts, it doesn't follow the book with any fidelity. . .

Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff!

1970 - Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall

Not the best version of WH, but not all bad, either. I didn't like the actress cast as Cathy - she looked more like an Isabella Linton than a Catherine Earnshaw. On the other hand, Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff. . . wow! :-) What a lot of talent the guy had/has - even at such an early age (early 20s when WH was filmed). Judy Cornwell (Mrs. Musgrove in Persuasion 1995) was lovely as Nelly Dean. One thing that that this adaptation did do well was illustrating the dynamics and relationships within the Earnshaw family. BUT. . . this adaptation finishes after the death of Catherine. And *spoiler warning* they tweaked the story a bit, so that Hindley shoots and kills Heathcliff shortly after Catherine's death! On top of that, the film is only 100 minutes long, so the whole movie felt very rushed. 100 minutes just ain't long enough to do WH any kind of justice, even if you're only adapting half of the story.

3 out of 5 stars

Wuthering Heights 1992

1992 - Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche

It's been a while since I last watched this adaptation, but from what I can remember, it simply failed to capture what Wuthering Heights is all about for me. This movie hasn't aged very well - the wigs and hairstyles, especially, are painfully early-90s. Aargh! :-( I didn't particular like any of the actors in the film. If I remember correctly, Ralph Fiennes was okay as Heathcliff, though I wasn't overly enamoured with Juliette Binoche's Catherine. They got Juliette Binoche to play both Cathys. She had such a terrible blonde wig as Cathy jr!! But getting past the wigs - I just didn't really like this version. It seemed rather bland in places, lacking the raw, wild beauty that Wuthering Heights is supposed to have. The soundtrack, the script, the overall feel of the film. . . it just didn't cut it for me. It's not 'my' Wuthering Heights.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Wuthering Heights 1998

1998 - Robert Cavanagh and Orla Brady

My favourite version of Wuthering Heights! This is probably one of the lesser-known adaptations, but it is, in my opinion, the best. That's not to say it's perfect - far from it. As I said above, Wuthering Heights is a very difficult book to adapt for film or TV, and certainly we have yet to see the definitive version of Wuthering Heights (I very much doubt that we ever will see it. . .). But for me, WH 1998 captures the 'essence' of Wuthering Heights better than any of the other adaptations available. Robert Cavanagh as Heathcliff - he doesn't look like Heathcliff, but he manages to convey Heathcliff's character better than any of the other attempts I have seen. Heathcliff's viciousness and cruelty is also less toned down here that it is in some of the other versions.

Orla Brady as Cathy - not 100% right, but I still like her better than any of the other Cathys. Many viewers have complained about the actors playing Heathcliff and Cathy being too old. Which is true enough, I suppose. They both look about 35 in scenes where they're supposed to be 15. It is a bit distracting, but it didn't bother me enough to destroy my appreciation of the rest of the movie. The soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous. This is the only version of WH I have seen that managed to bring me to tears! I was bawling during the last few minutes of the film - which were very well done. So sad, but so beautiful. Another thing I loved about this adaptation was the fact that it retained quite a lot of Emily Bronte's dialogue - always a plus!

Wuthering Heights 1998

Simon Bonham-Carter (Mr. Bingley in P&P 95!) was very good as Edgar Linton. It's great to see a different side to his acting abilities. Finally, I can't wrap up this mini-review without mentioning MATTHEW MACFADYEN as Hareton!! He looks so young - this was his first role for TV, according to IMDb. If you're a fan of Matthew (like me), this adaptation of WH is worth checking out for Matthew's brief appearances alone. His scenes with Catherine are so adorable! :-) One more plus - this is possibly one of the cleaner versions of Wuthering Heights out there. The more violent and disturbing aspects of the story are often merely implied, rather than graphically depicted.

4 out of 5 stars

Wuthering Heights 2009

2009 - Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley

Didn't particularly like this new miniseries adaptation from ITV. I thought it was bland, and overly modern. Remember I said the 1992 version hasn't aged well? I think it will be the same for WH 2009. In another 15-20 years we'll watch this version and groan. . . "Hm, a very 2000s version of Wuthering Heights". . . which it is. I really think they went a little too far here in trying to make this adaptation accessible for a modern audience. With a classic, timeless text like Wuthering Heights, you shouldn't need to bend over backwards in effort to make the story 'contemporary' and 'accessible'. Duh!! But it does have some good points - Tom Hardy was fantastic as Heathcliff. Too bad I didn't like any of the other actors in this production. Charlotte Riley looks like Catherine, but I wasn't all that impressed with her portrayal of Cathy. Also, there are several scenes in this version that I had to fast-forward through. :-/

3 out of 5 stars


Note: all of the above adaptations are on Youtube, if you want to watch them online. Just search for "Wuthering Heights 1998", for instance, and you should be able to find it without too much trouble.

Whew! This has turned into a pretty epic post. If you're still reading, congratulations. :P Thank you for your patience.

Now - I want to hear your thoughts and opinions! Do you like Wuthering Heights? Do you hate it? Do you think it deserves its status as one of the great classics of English literature? Do you have a favourite movie adaptation?

Friday, December 11, 2009

I have seen The Young Victoria!

At last! LOL! I bought I copy from the UK - it hasn't yet been released on DVD here.

The Young Victoria

A few pictures for you to drool over. Yes, the costumes really are to die for!!

Some of my first impressions:

I liked, but I didn't love it. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think it may have something to do with the portrayal of Victoria herself. Perhaps in an effort to overturn the stereotype of Queen Victoria as being a small, mousy little woman, here she is portrayed as confident, headstrong, and vivacious.

The Young Victoria

Which is great, but. . . I couldn't really warm to her at first. I suppose it's natural to prefer heroines with whom one can truly identify! And I sometimes had trouble identifying with Emily Blunt's Victoria. The "Young Victoria" here is confident and, at times hot-tempered. Yes, she is clever and delightful but. . . I thought she seemed a bit spoilt at times! Which is forgiveable, I suppose, in a princess/queen. :-/

The Young Victoria

Rupert Friend (Mr. Wickham from P&P05. . .) was very good as Prince Albert. The production values are impeccable. . . the film is a dazzling feast for the eyes, as I knew it would be. Hmm. . . the cast were all good. The script was okay.

One of the things I found fascinating about the film was the picture it gave of growing up as a member of the Royal Family, and the quirks and challenges of being groomed as the next monarch! Some aspects of being part of a royal family may have changed, but I imagine others are still the same - to some extent. Going slightly off-topic. . . did you know that Sarah Fergusen co-produced The Young Victoria? And that her daughter, Princess Beatrice of York, makes a cameo in the film, during the coronation scene? I thought that was so neat, having a real-life descendant of Queen Victoria in that scene. :-)

The Young Victoria

I also appreciated the historical background of the film - whilst it was first and foremost a romance, there was still plenty of political intrigue and info about the various characters and events surrounding Victoria's early life. I don't know how much of it was historically accurate. Guess I'll have to get my hands on a good biography or two! Aargh! Another bunch of books to add to my overwhelmingly long to-read list. . . 

The Young Victoria

So - overall, I liked it, and highly recommend it for any romantic - or any costume drama fan (usually there's not much difference. :P). Like I said above - it's not one of my all-time favourites, but I did enjoy it. No doubt it will continue to grow on me after a couple of re-watches. 

4 out of 5 stars. . .

Charity's Place review

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Giveaway: Winner!!!

Emma - Beckinsale

I am very pleased to announce that the winner of my Emma DVD is. . . 

*drumroll*. . . 

In His Wings, a.k.a. Sarah!

Congratulations, Sarah! *hugs* Enjoy the DVD!! :-D 

Wow, that was fun! I think I'll have to have another giveaway sometime soon! A big thank you to everyone who entered. I wish I had 40 DVDs to give away so that you could each have one! :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Aussie readers: P&P on TV

Pride and Prejudice 1995

95% of my readers have probably seen it, but just in case you wanted to watch it again (and you happen to live in Australia), Pride and Prejudice 1995 will be on TV every Sunday night for the next few weeks, so you can get your P&P fix. :P It'll be on at 7:30pm on ABC2, starting this Sunday (6th Dec.).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Giveaway!!

Yay, my first giveaway! Here's what I'm giving away. . . 


A copy of my favourite Emma adaptation! ITV's 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong. The DVD is used, but in great condition. This is actually my own personal copy, so it's been carefully looked after! :-)

If you're wondering why I'm giving away my copy - I was a little disappointed when, after buying this copy, I discovered it was in fullscreen, not widescreen format. I'd been thinking of buying myself a different copy (hopefully a widescreen version). But there's not much point in my having two copies of the same movie! :P Besides, I'd been wanting to have a giveaway anway.

So, if you're not bothered by the fullscreen format (especially as it is a giveaway and will cost you nothing!!). . .

LOL, you can see my hand reflected in the disc in this pic. . .

It is a Region 1 DVD, so it will play fine on pretty much any DVD player in North America. If you live elsewhere in the world, you will need a multi-region DVD player to play this DVD.


To enter, simply leave a comment! You don't even have to have your own blog - just make sure you leave your email address in your comment, so that I have some way of contacting you if you win!

To enter twice, publish a post on your blog about my giveaway.

Entries close on Wednesday 9th December - winner to be announced the following day!

Oh, and in case you were wondering - this giveaway is open to anyone anywhere in the world, not just Australian readers.


Just to clarify: I don't need your email address if you have a blog or website, because I can contact you via your blog/site. I only need your email address if you are blog-less! ;-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another award

I've been very awarded of late! Thanks so much, everyone!

Alexandra and Emily both gave me this award! Thank you! :-)

The rules are as follows:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Copy the award.
3. Post it on your blog.
4. Tell your readers 7 things they didn't know about you.
5. Link 7 bloggers as recipients.
6. Notify winners of award with a comment on their blog.
7. Keep being awesome.

* * * * * *

1. I don't like pretty, pastel colours or things! I love deep, rich colours - blacks, greys, dark blues, reds, greens. . . 

2. I love Aardman Animations movies! They're the folks who made Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, etc. I post mostly about costumes dramas on here, but I do watch other movies from time to time! :P

3. I would dearly love to visit Italy one day. *sigh*

4. I almost never wear pants. I don't have a single pair of jeans in my cupboard! It's just personal preference - I like skirts better. :-)

5. I was born in Brisbane, but I tend to dislike large towns or cities. Definitely a country-town girl!

6.  I sleep on a triple bunk bed, with my twin sisters.

7. I hate fish! I am no longer allergic to fish (used to be when I was little), but I still can't stand the smell or taste!

* * * * * *

And now I am going to break one of the rules! Rather than award 7 people. . .  if you are simply a regular visitor on Ribbons of Light, please accept this award - From Me to You! :-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I won. . . sort of. . .

It's a long story (no pun intended). Nanowrimo finished last night - of course, for Nanowrimoers in America it's still going, but last night was my last chance to finish off and win. Well - I reached my 50 000 words. I knew that there was sometimes some discrepancy between word processor word counters and Nanowrimo's official word count 'verifier', so I went a little over 50 000, just in case.

So. . . I went to verify my manuscript on Nanowrimo, and it said I had reached a grand total of. . . 48 599 words! Now, by this time it was nearly 10 pm, past my bedtime, and I was getting very tired and cranky! But according to Nanowrimo, I still had another 1400 words I needed write in order to win. I was not prepared to stay up until midnight, madly scribbling away! As far as I was concerned, I had reached my 50 000 words. Open Office - my word processor - said that I had, and if Nanowrimo said I hadn't, then that was its problem, LOL! I had FINISHED my novel! There was nothing else I could add to it - nothing else that I could think of to say.

I felt so disappointed! I almost wanted to cry. I felt cheated, so I cheated right back. I copied and pasted a couple of paragraphs in my manuscript a few times over, so that I reached the 50 000 words (according to Nanowrimo), then I entered that in, and 'won'.

I still felt really disappointed, though. Next time (if there is a next time) I will definitely be checking my word count on the Nanowrimo word counter, not just on my word processor.

But - I reached my goal! I wrote a novel - in one month. Earlier this year, I came up with an idea for a story. I started writing, and got to about 5 or 6 pages. Then after that, those pages lay semi-forgotten in my desk for months. . . until I decided, on the spur of the moment, to give Nanowrimo a try.

So, if it wasn't for Nanowrimo, I would never have gotten my first novel written! So I suppose it was worth it after all, even with all the stress and craziness.

I also discovered a thing or two about myself as a writer. I found out that I write much better at night than during the day. I don't know why it is, but the creative juices just seem to flow better between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm than at any other time of day or night! So - in future, I might simply not bother about writing during the day, and instead just do an hour or two of storywriting in the evening. Most days this month, I would struggle all day, and end up writing only 500 words or so. Then after dinner, I'd sit down and write 1500 words in an hour or two!

And I discovered that it is generally not advisable to attempt to write a romance novel - no matter how squeaky-clean it is - if you yourself have never really been in love! It just ain't a good idea! I was talking about this with a friend a few weeks ago. She said "Just use your imagination!" A good point, I suppose. After all, my novel is set in the 1790s, and I have no experience of living in 1790s England - I had to use my imagination for that, too! But. . . but. . . thing is, whilst no-one living today has lived in 18th century England, most people have some idea of how it feels to be in love! So anyone reading my novel will immediately go, "Hm. This was evidently written by a silly, romantic, teenage girl, who had no idea what she was talking about. . ." :P

So - next time, I think I'll give romance the flick, and instead write a. . . I don't know. . . I might try fantasy. Not a big fantasy epic - I wouldn't be able to handle the battle scenes for one thing. Boys are good at that sort of thing, girls, not so much. . . So, not an epic adventure, just something small and quirky.

As for my Nanorimo novel - it is a very, very, rough draft! I haven't let anyone - not even my family - read it yet. Maybe after it's been through a second or third re-write, it might be presentable enough to show to someone. . . as it is, there are at least 3 or 4 characters that I'll probably get rid of, and many pages of rubbishy dialogue that I'll have to cut out. Also, I'm not even 100% sure about my plot. . . I might change some of the plot points, and some of the character names.

But for now, I won't be doing any re-writing. I intend to leave it well alone for a few weeks or months, and then come back and read it again, from a more objective viewpoint. The only thing that I'm worried about is that, if I leave it for a while then read it from an "objective viewpoint", I'll probably be so appalled at how BAD it is, that I'll abandon it forever.

Well - whether my poor novel ever sees the light of day again or not, at least I wrote it! It was probably a good experience for me as a writer, and as a person.

So - thank you, Nanowrimo! And I credit my family, Yann Tiersen, and Facebook for getting me through the experience. My family for being patient and forbearing, Yann Tiersen's music for relaxing and inspiring me, and Facebook for providing a vent for me to voice my frustration whenever I got stuck with my novel. Pity my poor Facebook friends, who had to put up with all my complaints of writer's block, and of how slowly the word count ticks over. . .

And finally - it feels so good to discover TIME again! Time to watch movies with my family, time for baking (there have been no cake or biscuits in the house for several weeks now!), time to read (yay!), time to go for walks, time to relax!

And hopefully, time for blogging! ;-)